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Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Iowa Fallout

Wow! Let's jump right into the breakdown. Starting with Iowa's last place finisher:

(But first, the Republican Primary Schedule)
January 3--Iowa Caucuses
January 10--New Hampshire Primary
January 21--South Carolina Primary
January 31--Florida Primary
February 4 to March 3--Nevada, Maine, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri (doesn't count), Arizona, Michigan, Washington.
March 6--Super Tuesday (10 states)

Jon Huntsman--1% (generous) of the Iowa voteWhat Iowa represented: Nothing. Ignoring it was not a tactical mistake. Yes, putting all his chips into New Hampshire is a Hail Mary pass on 4th and long, but exhausting funds by competing in conservative Iowa would have been running the ball up the middle.
How Iowa results affect candidacy: No single candidate emerged to knock Huntsman out of the New Hampshire top 3 with Romney and Paul. Santorum won't play as well in New Hampshire and Gingrich came off a little sour after falling well behind the top 3.
What candidate must do: Keep doing what he's doing and hope to run second to Romney in New Hampshire. Then maybe, just maybe, he emerges as the last candidate to pop in the polls.

Michelle Bachmann--5%
What Iowa represented: Ames was a long time ago. Staying in the race (so far) is a surprising move. Stay tuned--news conference scheduled for 11 AM.
How Iowa results affect candidacy: Turn over the piggy bank. When nothing comes out, pack it up and go back to the House.
What candidate must do: Don't endorse anyone unless a true Romney rival emerges. No need to lose twice in one primary (poor momentum for her House reelection bid in November).

Rick Perry--10%
What Iowa represented: He has a heartbeat, however faint. It's certainly stronger than Michelle Bachmann's.
How Iowa affects candidacy: Apparently, despite being stronger and better prepared for a long campaign, he also more quickly delineated (read: is lazier) than Bachmann. While a double digit showing should have been good enough to survive until South Carolina, Perry looks to be packing it in. Surely he had no idea what he was getting into when the party clamored for his entry into the race. Running for president is hard.
What candidate must do: It looks like he's dropping out. If, however, he stays in: Punt New Hampshire. The other five candidates are all going to the Granite State this week. Perry can be all alone in South Carolina and try to build on that 10% in a southern, conservative state. But alas, the Governor is tired and he wants to go home.

Newt Gingrich--13%
What Iowa represented: Just when you counted him out...
How Iowa affects candidacy: Fourth place is the bottom floor from which he must climb the staircase. This path was laid out here on Monday. If he can crack the top 3 in New Hampshire (bumping out either Huntsman or Paul), that could translate to a top 2 in South Carolina, which could lead to a win in Florida, where he's still leading in the polls. However, Iowa's other effects on the Gingrich Campaign is that Perry and Bachmann are likely finished, and Gingrich, as explained earlier, did not want that.
What candidate must do: With New Hampshire debates scheduled for Saturday evening and Sunday morning (morning?!), Gingrich has a puncher's chance to place in the top 3 in New Hampshire and start to play up the "Rising Newt/Comeback" plotline. To limit Romney's momentum of Iowa and New Hampshire wins, Gingrich will go on the offensive.

Ron Paul--21.5061%, rounded, for some reason, to 21
What Iowa represented: He's twice as popular in Iowa as he was four years ago.
How Iowa affects candidacy: It's the first of many top 3 finishes for the Texas Congressman. This finish was completely expected.
What candidate must do: Keep racking up top 3s and shape the debate down the stretch. As I said Monday: low ceiling, rock solid floor.

Rick Santorum--24.6132%, rounded to 25
What Iowa represented: He really did peak at the perfect time.
How Iowa affects candidacy: His superb showing coupled with the imminent terminations of the Bachmann and Perry campaigns was as good of a scenario he could have hoped for without winning the state. He's become the clear cut, true conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. Will the conservative base rally around him? Have both Bachmann and Perry received conservative pressure to get out of Santorum's way? Kudos to Santorum on a surprisingly strong speech last night. It was clear, humble, and, most impressively, even and controlled. He acted the part of a winner, not the part of a pumped up underdog.
What candidate must do: Ignore New Hampshire! A top 3 is not happening there. Go win South Carolina--very winnable for the strongest conservative in the race--and then sit back and let all of Perry and Bachmann's money and support come in. Getting their funding and ground troops are crucial, as Santorum has very little groundwork outside of Iowa. A Santorum win in South Carolina makes it a two-man race, which is exactly what Santorum needs and Mitt Romney dreads. If, however, he wastes time trying to compete in New Hampshire, he blows an opportunity to get a head start in South Carolina.

Mitt Romney--24.6198%, rounded to 25
What Iowa represented: Mr. 25 Percent lives up to his not-so-lofty name.
How Iowa affects candidacy: Some effect. People keep saying Romney’s inability to get over 25 percent in Iowa's polls, and now caucuses, shows that he has difficulty winning popular support among national Republicans. That’s not at all what it means. All his 25% in Iowa means is that he showed an inability to win over 25% of Iowa. And guess what. Neither did anyone else! There were seven candidates in the race, and four of them were contenders over the last month. It is unlikely that a candidate could win over 25 percent of voters in such conditions, especially a Mormon in Iowa. This result, ultimately, is not an accurate barometer of Romney's national strength. However, the withdrawal of Perry and Bachmann will be extremely worrisome to the Romney Campaign, for reasons explained in the Santorum section.
What candidate must do: Not panic! He'll win New Hampshire big and extend his delegate lead, earning momentum into South Carolina and Florida. Gingrich should take votes away from Santorum in South Carolina and Florida, but even if he doesn't, Romney's national money and infrastructure is built for the long haul and Super Tuesday, unlike every other viable candidate (Sorry, Ron Paul). Santorum is simply not ready to run a national campaign. Romney is still the favorite to win the Republican nomination, but I'd say he's moved from 2:5 odds to 3:5 (see left sidebar).

Holistic analysis:
Just like Mike Huckabee's victory in 2008, winning Iowa will ultimately be irrelevant. In fact, in this epic close caucus, each of the top three candidates will probably clear 7 pledged delegates from Iowa (with Gingrich and Perry each earning two). What’s most relevant about Iowa is not the winner, but how it shakes up the field, and how that shakeup affects the favorite for the nomination. Every relevant analysis of the Republican primaries must deal with this question, "How did this affect Mitt Romney?" I've attempted answers. Feel free to answer it any way you'd like, just make sure you're asking the question.

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